Now that Paul Pierce has retired from the NBA it's a good time to look at where Jayhawks stand compared to each other in terms of a few NBA statistical categories:
1 - Paul Pierce 1,343
2 - Wilt Chamberlain: 1,045
3 - Dave Robisch: 930
4 - Bill Bridges: 926
5 - Nick Collison: 895
6 - Danny Manning: 883
7 - Kirk Hinrich: 879
8 - Jo Jo White: 837
9 - Drew Gooden: 790
10 - Jacque Vaughn: 776
1 - Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419
2 - Paul Pierce: 26,397
3 - Jo Jo White: 14,399
4 - Danny Manning: 12,367
5 - Clyde Lovellette: 11,947
6 - Bill Bridges: 11,012
7 - Dave Robisch: 10,581
8 - Kirk Hinrich: 9,594
9 - Drew Gooden: 8,653
10 - Wayne Hightower: 6,568
11 - Raef LaFrentz: 5,690
12 - Darnell Valeninte: 5,400
13 - Markieff Morris: 5,338
14 - Nick Collison: 5,328
15 - Mario Chalmers: 5,236
16 - Walt Wesley: 5,002
17 - Andrew Wiggins: 4,995
18 - Ron Franz: 4,733
19 - Marcus Morris: 4,513
20 - Greg Ostertag: 3,512
1 - Wilt Chamberlain: 23,924
2 - Bill Bridges: 11,054
3 - Paul Pierce: 7,527
4 - Clyde Lovellette: 6,663
5 - Dave Robisch: 6,173
6 - Drew Gooden: 5,618
7 - Nick Collison: 4,680
8 - Danny Manning: 4,615
9 - Greg Ostertag: 4,145
10 - Wayne Hightower: 3,966
1 - Paul Pierce: 4,708
2 - Wilt Chamberlain: 4,643
3 - Kirk Hinrich: 4,245
4 - Jo Jo White: 4,095
5 - Darnell Valentine: 3,080
6 - Bill Bridges: 2,553
7 - Mario Chalmers: 2,215
8 - Danny Manning: 2,063
9 - Jacque Vaughn: 1,919
10 - Dave Robisch: 1,655
Mid-year Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe won't be eligible to play in games until mid-December, by which time he will have had a year in the program. All that practice time will make him more ready for games than a freshman would be and it will be interesting to see him work his way into the lineup.
A native of Seattle, will have to work even harder for minutes if Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk withdraws his name from the draft and returns for his senior season.
What can we expect to see from the 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing who shot .308 on 2-point shots and .405 on 3-pointers?
“He’s really, really athletic, really athletic, good shooter, doesn’t really know how to play yet without the ball, so the year (of practice) will definitely help him do that," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think he’s going to be a really good college player, without question. I don’t know how soon he’ll have the impact. I see similarities that I saw with Lagerald (Vick) early in his career. He’s athletic like that.”
Cunliffe averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.4 minutes in the 10 games he played for Arizona State before deciding to transfer.
Cunliffe has such an effortless look to his smooth, acrobatic dunks, as shown in the following video.
Lavar Ball, father of UCLA star point guard prospect, has had a blast making outrageous statements.
He’s a laugh riot, provided you can laugh about a man blowing his son’s shot at a $20 million shoe contract because he started his own shoe company and came up with a $495 price tag for a pair of sneakers.
Anyway, one of Lavar’s headline statements came when he said that his son Lonzo would sign only with the Lakers. Sure enough, the lottery gave the Lakers the second pick and most mock drafts have them selecting the local prospect.
Not so fast.
If I’m the Lakers, I throw a wrench into that scenario and draft a player who brings such intense competitiveness and has such a well-rounded game that he could get to work at establishing a winning culture from Day 1 and do it with a smile and smoothness made for Hollywood.
Josh Jackson’s a smiling assassin, just as the man making the decisions for the Lakers now was during his playing days.
Magic Johnson has a great appreciation for basketball players who excel in all areas because that’s how he won championships. Ball does that too, although he doesn’t get after it defensively to the same extent as Jackson. Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, the draft’s quickest player, blew by him all day in the NCAA tournament.
Magic played at Michigan State and tried to get Jackson to do the same. He has known all about Jackson, his game, his fiery, competitive spirit and natural charisma for years. To know Jackson is to like him.
Magic's signature play was the no-look pass and now we're supposed to believe that now that everyone’s looking at Ball as the Lakers' obvious pick Magic’s going to telegraph a move for the first time in his life? Magicians, masters of illusion, don't let the rest of us behind the curtain.
Jackson would look great in purple and gold. His passes will remind Lakers fans of Magic's. His dunks will recall those of James Worthy. He'll defend the way Michael Cooper did. He'll play winning basketball in an unselfish way that will make veteran stars want to join him via free agency.
The draft isn’t until Thursday, June 22, by which time Lavar Ball might be planning to start a basketball league on Mars, one that charges $10,000 per ticket, excluding the cost of the roundball interplanetary roundtrip spaceship flight.
It will be a fascinating draft, especially if the Lakers pass on Ball and a few others do as well as the cameras zoom in on his father’s sweat beads.
Before taking a look at where the hot-take NBA mock drafts have Josh Jackson going, consider a brilliant idea proferred by Andrew Perloff in a video on SI.com.
The NBA’s integrity took a huge hit with teams tanking left and right to improve their chances of moving up the lottery ranks. Such maneuvers make a mockery of the game and cheat fans who pay money to see teams compete, not to be used as pawns in a dastardly scheme.
Perloff suggests that the lottery expand from 14 to 20 with the bottom three playoff teams in each conference getting ping pong balls. Each of the 20 teams has an equal chance, which completely takes away the incentive to throw games.
“That way everyone is gunning for the postseason,” Perloff said. “You’re going to see no mid-level tanking at all.”
Now onto the mock drafts:
SI.com has Jackson going fourth to the Phoenix Suns, behind Fultz, Ball and Duke's Jayson Tatum.
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford also has Jackson going fourth to the Suns, behind Fultz, Ball and Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk.
“He’s a versatile two-way wing who is great in the open court, can lock down three positions and plays with an intensity reminiscent of Kevin Durant,” Ford wrote. “His jump shot is shaky, but the Suns have plenty of shooters.”
Reid Forgrave of CBSsports.com has Jackson going fifth to the Sacramento Kings, behind surprise No. 1 Jayson Tatum of Duke, Ball, Fultz and Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox.
Three Jayhawks at lottery
A case easily could be made that Jackson has the least natural ability of the three Jayhawks at the NBA lottery, ranking behind Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, but if I had to guess which player will have the most productive NBA career, my guess would be Embiid if healthy, Jackson if injuries prevent Embiid from having a long career.
The photo of Wiggins and Jackson together offered an interesting contrast in styles. Wiggins wore a flashy suit that called attention to himself. Jackson was dressed like a man ready to get down to the serious business of winning. Wiggins will score more points in the NBA, but Jackson will do all the things necessary to play winning basketball.
If I were the general manager of whichever team drafts Jackson and the Minnesota Timberwolves called offering Wiggins in exchange for him, I would instantly respond with four words: "No thanks. Anything else?"
Dwight Coleby has one foot out the door, not officially gone but likely headed to another school to play his final season as a graduate transfer.
That solves the mystery of how Kansas can get to 13 scholarships in the event that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk withdraws his name from the NBA Draft.
So let’s assume Coleby is gone and look at how minutes might be distributed with Svi back.
Point guard: Devonte’ Graham 33, Marcus Garrett 7.
Shooting guard: Malik Newman 30, Lagerald Vick 5, Garrett 5.
Small forward: Svi 20, Vick 20.
Power forward: Billy Preston 20, Jack Whitman 15, Svi 5.
Center: Udoka Azubuike 25, Mitch Lightfoot 10, Whitman 5.
Obviously, these are wild guesses that will fluctuate greatly, based on how quickly newcomers learn what coach Bill Self wants out of them in terms of effort, unselfish play and attention to detail.
If Preston competes well enough in practice to earn a starting spot along with Graham, Newman, Svi or Vick, and Azubuike, that would give KU four accomplished shooters playing with a stay-on-the-block center, a tough load for any defense to handle.
Azubuike's development will be the single biggest key to success, regardless of whether Svi completes the roster.
So much talent will be on the floor during practice, ideal circumstances for competitive athletes seeking to improve quickly to draw closer to earning money.
Transfers Charlie Moore (California) and Dedric and K.J. Lawson (forwards from Memphis) can't play in games, leaving the practice floor as the only outlet for their competitive juices.
The Bill Self statement that resonated most loudly at the team banquet came in reference to Malik Newman, who practiced with Kansas last season after transferring from Mississippi State.
“I’ll be disappointed if Malik’s not an all-league or All-American player next year,” Self said.
The KU coach ought to know an All-American when he sees one.
Kansas has had a remarkable run of Associated Press All-Americans since Sherron Collins became Self’s first Kansas recruit to earn the distinction with third-team honors in 2009.
That started a run of 12 All-Americans in the past nine seasons, a run in which at least one Jayhawk was named first, second or third-team All-American by AP in every season except 2015.
Devonte’ Graham also has the potential to land on an All-American team as a senior.
Of the 12 Self Kansas recruits honored by the AP, five were seniors (Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeff Withey, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason), four juniors (Collins, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson), three freshmen (Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson).
A year-by-year breakdown of All-Americans in Self’s 14 seasons:
2017: Mason, first team; Jackson, third team.
2016: Ellis, second team.
2014: Wiggins, second team.
2013: McLemore, second team; Withey, third team.
2012: Robinson, first team; Taylor, third team.
2011: Marcus Morris, second team.
2010: Collins, second team; Aldrich, third team.
2009: Collins, third team.
2005: Wayne Simien, first team.
2004: Simien, third team.
He played in just 11 games, went scoreless in two and scored in double figures in just one, yet even at that, Udoka Azubuike left no doubt that he will have a lengthy NBA future and earn tens of millions of dollars playing basketball.
If I had my choice of skimming 1 percent of career earnings from any player eligible to compete in games next season for Kansas, I would choose Azubuike, even ahead of guard Malik Newman.
The pool of 7-foot, 280-pound athletes with nimble feet, pretty sure hands and a zest for punishing rims is quite shallow.
Speaking at the program’s annual banquet, KU's Hall of Fame coach Bill Self called Azubuike, “probably the most talented big guy that we’ve had here in a long, long time, other than Joel (Embiid).”
Self added that Azubuike’s trajectory “is off the charts,” reminding the audience that the big man won’t turn 18 until next Sept. 17.
“When he was hurt, we thought that was a huge blow because he’s going to be so darn good,” Self said.
Azubuike totaled six points and 12 rebounds in 15 minutes vs. Duke, overpowered a short UNC-Asheville with 17 points in 23 minutes, and in 11 games blocked 18 shots in 142 minutes.
More often than not, he dunked, and hadn’t developed enough shooting skill to do any better than .379 from the free-throw line. The good side of that coin is that he hangs out close to the basket and doesn’t entertain any guard fantasies.
Azubuike showed great potential and raw edges during his 11 games, but it's not as if he's been playing video games all year without learning anything that will help him next season.
"From him sitting through every scouting report and making him a part of everything that's going on, I think he definitely understands the game better than he did, without question," Self said.
If Azubuike can become a respectable free-throw shooter, eliminating Hack-A-Dok as a defensive strategy, he'll be extremely difficult to guard and quickly become more than just a shot-blocking, rebounding force. He's a very exciting prospect.
If he continues to struggle mightily from the line, Azubuike ought to consider shooting free throws underhanded. Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry, two Hall of Fame perennial All-Stars, weren't too proud to do it.
Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson became the 20th McDonald’s All-American recruited to Kansas by Bill Self.
That’s a big number for a coach entering his 15th season, but the favorite to become Self’s first Kansas recruit to earn the honor of selection to play in the NBA All-Star game was not a McDonald’s honoree.
A look at the players with the best chance to become Self’s first All-Star Jayhawk:
1 - Joel Embiid: He has played just 31 games in three seasons since leaving Kansas, where he played 28 games and averaged 23.1 minutes.
Embiid played in 31 games for the Philadelphia 76ers this season before shutting it down to have a torn meniscus in his left knee repaired.
After missing two seasons with a career-threatening foot injury, Embiid was put on a minutes restriction and still managed to produce All-Star-caliber numbers for the Sixers.
Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game.
Even if the Sixers continue to watch his minutes next season, he has a strong shot to become an All-Star.
2 - Josh Jackson: Rookies seldom make a big enough splash to earn All-Star status and it likely will take Jackson a few years to reach that level of recognition, but he’s such a nasty competitor and versatile performer that it’s easy to project him quickly becoming an NBA star.
3 - Andrew Wiggins: Averaging 23.7 points per game, Wiggins loves to shoot, but doesn’t seem terribly interested in rebounding (4.1 per game) or passing (2.2 assists). Heading into the season finale vs. Oklahoma City, Wiggins is shooting .454 and has a chance to finish a season with more assists (182) than turnovers (181).
It takes more than scoring a lot of points for a bad team to earn All-Star recognition, so unless Wiggins expands his game, even if that means shrinking his scoring average, he’s not likely to become Self’s first Kansas All-Star.
4 - The rest: The Morris twins are productive, versatile NBA players, but haven’t quite played to the level they merit consideration for the honor. Markieff has started 242 of 448 NBA games, including all 76 games this season with the Washington Wizards. Marcus has started 218 of 416, including all 159 in his two seasons with the Detroit Pistons.
Malik Newman? Dedric Lawson? If they develop into pros of that caliber, someone else likely will have beaten them to All-Star status.
McDonald’s All-Americans recruited to Kansas by Self:
Cole Aldrich, Cliff Alexander, Darrell Arthur, Udoka Azubuike, Carlton Bragg, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Cheick Diallo, Micah Downs, Perry Ellis, Xavier Henry, Josh Jackson, Newman, Kelly Oubre, Billy Preston, Josh Selby, Wayne Selden, Wiggins, Julian Wright.
Only someone whose vision was blinded by crimson-and-blue lenses couldn't see Carlton Bragg's transfer coming. He wasn't the right player for Bill Self and Self wasn't the right coach for him.
A Hall of Fame coach doesn't change his style to accommodate one player or he risks losing the rest of the team. You don't even do that for a productive player. Self's style has worked well enough for him to win 13 Big 12 titles in a row, reach the Elite Eight in 50 percent of his seasons, go 3-1 in the Final Four and bring Kansas its first national title since 1988. It just didn't work for Bragg, who took a backward step as a sophomore.
Here's hoping that whatever else other than a hit to his confidence that made Bragg's hands worse, his shots from the perimeter more tentative, his attention to detail shaky, can be solved in his next stop. He didn't play much on the perimeter as a sophomore because his size was needed in the paint, especially after the injury to Udoka Azubuike, but even when he did shoot from the outside, he didn't do so with the same confidence. He shot with one eye on the rim, the other looking over his shoulder in the direction of the bench.
Bragg remains a basketball prospect, but this is the big leagues. And he's had two seasons to try to figure out how to hit the curveballs that come with competing at the highest level and continued to look lost, Kansas couldn't afford to keep taking chances on a player still in need of minor-league seasoning. He was a Double-A pitcher with a 95 mph who didn't trust his stuff enough to throw strikes.
If any doubt remained as to whether Bragg would return for a third season, it all vanished when he didn't get off the bench in the loss to Oregon that denied Kansas a spot in the Final Four.
Other signs surfaced long before that. Guards sometimes would drive into the lane, see Bragg as an available target and either consciously or subconsciously remember a dropped pass from the past and wisely decide to put up a shot instead.
Here's hoping Bragg, who runs the floor well for a big man and has a soft shooting touch from the perimeter, can find a school where he can showcase his perimeter skills and face the sort of competition that will enable him to develop into a prolific rebounder. Kansas wasn't that school and never was going to become it.
KU's future became brighter with Thursday's announcement as did Bragg's chances at becoming a better basketball player.
Sometimes, everybody wins.
Kansas is still recruiting a point guard and for the moment has 11 players on scholarship. A look at the best-case scenario in terms of what the 11 players can do to help Kansas to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament in 2018:
1 - Malik Newman: Take into games the great scoring potential he showed in practice this past season, use his terrific athleticism and turn it into defensive ability. No reason the 6-foot-3 guard who transferred from Mississippi State can't be Big 12 player of the year.
2 - Devonte’ Graham: More of the same, but with more consistent drives to the hoop to make defenses collapse. Graham typically guarded the other team’s best perimeter scorer and in the first three games of the NCAA tournament made 13 of 22 3-pointers.
3 - Udoka Azubuike: Get into the best shape of his life. If he can build enough stamina to be able to get up and down the court well enough to keep up with the team’s rapid pace, the rest will take care of itself. His blend of quickness for a man his size, soft shooting touch, and feel for blocking shots all mean that with experience he’ll develop into a dominant college center.
4 - Billy Preston: Embrace Josh Jackson’s win-every-possession-at-both-ends mentality. He’s a big man who has guard skills, but he’s coming to a school where that’s not going to blow anybody away. Kansas has had plenty of big men who handled the ball and shot like guards, but only the ones willing to do the little things and get their noses dirty became productive, popular, winning forces. The sooner Preston realizes that, the sooner he’ll fit in.
5 - Svi Mykhailiuk: Increase on hard, late-season drives he took out of hiding, and when hot from the perimeter, demand the ball.
6 - Lagerald Vick: Steer clear of trouble off the court, and cure one strange recurring problem as a shooter. Does anybody remember a player who on 3-pointers from the corner hits the side of the backboard as frequently as Vick? Maybe he’s standing too close to the baseline. Anyway, he has a nice shooting touch and he’s such a quick leaper and has a chance to make a big leap forward as a junior. No reason he can’t get a ton of steals.
7 - Sam Cunliffe: In 10 games for Arizona State, he averaged 25.4 minutes, shot .405 from 3-point range and should be able to join the rotation as soon as he’s eligible at the end of the first semester.
8 - Marcus Garrett: He can earn playing time by becoming as strong a defender as possible as quickly as possible. It sounds as if he knows that, so it will be interesting to see him chase minutes.
9 - Dwight Coleby: His knee should be stronger, which is good because he’ll be needed to lend muscle off the bench.
10 - Mitch Lightfoot: He’ll find a way to contribute because he obviously cares and embraces physical approach to the game.
11 - Carlton Bragg: Transfer. That’s his best path to getting his career back on track.